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Sun takes the Opteron highroad

Where blades are bloated and oddities thrive

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With these three systems, Sun looks a lot more like a real x86 server vendor. It now has general purpose kit that covers the two-socket to eight-socket market in style. It also has a unique system and some blades, ending a very embarrassing period where Sun - the only major pure server vendor - didn't play in the fastest growing part of the server market.

The new boxes should provide a decent feel for how well Sun has assessed the x86 market and how much of an impact Bechtolsheim's return has made on the company. This is the second generation of Becky gear.

Sun always cracks us up by waiting to release a lot of servers at once in some kind of shock and awe exercise and then botching the actual launch.

First off, a lot of this hardware should have appeared last year. We can't seem to figure out what delays Sun's hardware production cycles again and again and again, but something is not right. Pushing out all of this gear at once just draws attention to this fact.

Then, you've got the x4600, which has been on sale for quite a few weeks. Sun tried to keep this box a secret for reasons that we can't figure out.

Lastly, you get Sun announcing the blade chassis but not the blades. Only those with a price list find the x8400 four-socket systems, while the two-socket blades are still MIA.

It's hard for us to understand why Sun couldn't have told a clear story around the x4600 and x4500 and actually explained what these servers can do in its press releases and interviews and then followed that release in a month or so with another clear story around the blades - perhaps even when it had the blades ready.

If this kind of thing is frustrating to us, we know it must be to customers as well.

Rant aside, Sun has taken the necessary steps toward boosting its x86 server revenue in a meaningful way, which is a must for the company. Focusing on the high-end of the market seems a solid approach for a company familiar in that territory. It limits Sun's volume assault - especially in blades - but lets it play off the strength of Solaris and Sun's sales knowhow.

And, heck, if customers start dumping Unix workloads onto eight-socket Opteron boxes, at least Sun will be the one doing the replacement. ®

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